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At Credo, we are guilty of using these names interchangeably

We often talk to clients about using psychology to understand the user’s perspective. The theories, models, and strategies that help us understand what turns an online user into a customer are often called different things.  

“Marketing psychology”, “behavioural psychology”, “user psychology”, “buyer psychology”, and “customer psychology” are all terms used to describe the ideas around procuring more customers.

The name is the least important part of conversion psychology

As some of these theories have been around since before the birth of the internet (and still have merit today), it isn’t surprising that this collection of insights has had many names over the years.

Understanding conversion psychology (regardless of what you call it) can be the difference between online success and failure.


“User” may become a distasteful word

The word “user” has come under attack a little lately. If you have seen the Netflix special “The Social Dilemma”, then you will understand the negative associations. As social perceptions shift, the word may increasingly be seen as distasteful.

But whilst the criticism of the word focuses on the user being addicted to something with negative consequences, the word can be used in a very different way.

A “user” in CRO is a visitor using your website

In Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO), the word “user” is used to identify a person on a website (a visitor) who has not yet transitioned into becoming a customer. At Credo, we often use the word “user” as to us, the difference between a user and a customer is important.

CRO doesn’t simply aim to increase the number of customers for any given business (although it does do this).

By focusing on the percentage of users turning into customers rather than just the number of customers, CRO helps you get more customers out of the same number of users. So, you don’t need to spend more on marketing to get more sales.  


Imperfect terminology

A problem with the above use of “user” is that it can de-humanise the people we are trying to understand. A “user” is simply not as relatable as a “person”.

A user may be seen as an impartial actor, mindlessly moving through a user flow; stopping when they reach a blocker, and moving seamlessly from one step to another when they don’t. This basic view is one often associated with usability. Whilst very important, usability is limited in that it often overlooks the complexity of what it means to be human.

The terms “buyer psychology” and “customer psychology” can also be problematic, as they assume all users will convert, and reduce the human down to one aspect of their being – that of being a customer.

Acknowledging the limitations of CRO terminology

The term “behavioural psychology” addresses the distance between a human and a user in part, and we do use the term as a result. But ultimately, even this falls short as people are so much more than their behaviours.

To understand behaviours, you need to also understand a person’s thought processes, emotions, and (to a lesser extent), their physical state. Perhaps then, conversion psychology is best understood as human psychology, and yet that doesn’t fit perfectly either.

In the end, so long as you recognise the complexity of the subject and don’t loose sight of this, we believe that you are on the right path.


There have been critics of psychology for as long as it has been around. Whilst psychology often aims to run its experiments under the same strict conditions as the natural sciences, there are many studies which have taken a different, less rigorous approach.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. When we focus only on the objective, quantifiable evidence, we often miss out on the wider picture. Psychology is the perfect companion to quantifiable analytics data as it allows us to take a step back and interpret it from a human perspective.

All our CRO Audits take this combined approach. We take your analytics data and make it relatable. We help you put yourself in the shoes of your users, so you can better understand their experience and what is going to make that experience better.


Conversion psychology is not about creating false need

CRO utilises psychology to help users convert. Psychology can be used to help a user looking to buy a blue shirt, well, buy one.

What the implementation of psychology in CRO should not be used for is to convince someone who does not want to buy something that they should.

This can be confusing. I can almost hear you asking, “But what about basket upsell?”, “Isn’t that getting users to buy things they weren’t looking for?”. 

Upsell only works when the products or services being suggested are actually interesting to the user. It can’t convince someone to buy something they don’t want.

Conversion psychology is about pairing people with the experiences or products they want

Pressuring someone into buying something they don’t want is not the goal of CRO. We want people to have a good experience. After all good experiences = repeat customers. And repeat customers are often a goldmine!

The way Credo uses psychology in CRO is to tap into users’ motivations, the ones they are actively aware of, and the ones that lurk within their subconscious.


When we use psychology in a CRO Audit, we are sure to help our clients understand what it is we are referring to. We aim to write CRO reports in such a way that they could be understood by anyone in the company. We are aware that some of the terms we use can be unfamiliar, and we provide explanations for them all within the report.

We will be looking at some of those terms in more depth on this blog. We will help you understand some of the models, theories and unfamiliar phrases that you need to better understand how to harness your users’ motivations.


Get the basics of usability right

Knowing about user psychology only helps if you also know how to implement it. There are various practical ways you can implement what you learn.

For example, one of the core principles of a good user experience is making it seem effortless. The ideas surrounding this are those based on usability. Whilst somewhat limited (as discussed above), usability is important.

Unless you get usability right, you will struggle to keep users on your site long enough to apply the theories which go beyond. 

If a user who has never used your site before can move through the user flow without ever becoming stuck, confused, annoyed, board, or distracted, then you stand a good chance of them sticking around.

Usability issues cause low conversions

In reality, most websites we see have fundamental issues which act as blockers. In a user testing environment, these blockers cause the user to question what they are doing. The user will likely problem solve to try and find a solution because their only focus at that point in time is completing the task.

In the real world, the user is busy, short on patience, has no obligation to “try”, and will usually leave the site. As Google Analytics is real world data, we see this behaviour all the time when a part of the user journey fails to meet expectations.

With this in mind, removing as many obstacles as you can (even the tiny ones) and providing as many clear instructions as possible is important. Credo can help you identify what these obstacles are and where the opportunities to guide users towards conversion lie.


We would love to help you explore what goes through your users’ minds as they move through your website. We use data from user engagement heat maps and, Google Analytics to back up our findings.  

We also apply our experience of qualitative user research to help us empathise with the user’s perspective and give you insights that go beyond “best practice”. 

To find out more: